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State Supreme Court Removes Ballot Proposal on Lottery

October 27, 1990

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) _ The Arkansas Supreme Court stripped from the Nov. 6 ballot a proposal to establish a state lottery. The court said the wording of the referendum lacked sufficient information.

The justices voted 4-3 to remove the proposal, which would have amended the state constitution.

The decision came amid a state police investigation of allegations from lottery opponents that some signatures on petitions getting the proposal on the ballot were forged. Col. Tommy Goodwin, state police director, said the inquiry won’t be stopped by the court’s decision.

In a 16-page opinion, Associate Justice David Newbern said the referendum as explained on the ballot failed to tell voters how much power the amendment would give the five-member lottery board.

Those five people were already chosen and four of them were among drafters of the referendum. The five names appeared on the petitions, although one subsequently died.

Newbern said the ballot title failed to mention how the commission would be a part of the checks and balances of state government.

The Supreme Court also questioned the validity of signatures gathered since the death of one of the lottery board members.

Associate Justice Steele Hays said in a dissenting opinion that voters, not the courts, should decide on a lottery. The Supreme Court challenge was brought by lottery opponents.

One man who worked to get the proposal on the ballot said Friday the court decision was no surprise.

″Maybe it was the best thing that could happen,″ said Robert Walker, referring to the controversy the referendum provoked.

W.H. Sutton, a Little Rock attorney who led opposition to the lottery proposal, said the court did the right thing.

″We’re very gratified with the court’s decision. It was such a terrible amendment. It was nothing to fool around with, so I’m glad that it’s dead, no matter how it’s disposed of,″ Sutton said.

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